China law to make children visit parents

An elderly man bites into a Beiijng winter snack
Image caption There are fewer workers supporting more and more elderly people in China

China is considering making it a legal duty for people to visit their aged parents, state media say.

Under a draft legal amendment, elderly people could go to court to claim their right to be physically and mentally looked after by their children.

China is dealing with the problems of a growing elderly population.

Taking care of parents is part of traditional Chinese culture but migration and work pressures have been fracturing family ties, observers say.

An eighth of the population of China is over the age of 60, and more than half of them live alone.

Decades of China's one-child policy have left fewer workers supporting more and more elderly relatives.

And while the number of nursing homes is growing, the authorities were recently alarmed by stories of old people dying unnoticed in their apartments.

The change is a proposed draft amendment to the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged which came into effect in 1996.

A lawyer told state media the proposed new law would be difficult to enforce.

"It would be better to strengthen moral education than to force people to do something legally," Qian Jun said.

China has nearly 167 million people aged over 60 and one million above 80.

Your comments in reaction to this story

I don't think it's proper to make it a legal duty for people to visit their aged parents, but we have no choice. I have seen examples of old people dying unnoticed in their apartments. It's so great a matter in my country, and we must take measures now. To strengthen moral education will take a long time and the best choice now is to make it legally bound. Wutian Wen, China

I'm completely in favour of this proposal. I work and live very far away from my mother - who's in her late sixties and lives alone. Though I try to call her a couple of times every week and visit her a couple of times every year, I find it's far from enough. I am busy with work and it's quite difficult to ask for holidays simply to visit my mother. If there's a legal duty to visit one's parents, it would be much easier to apply for leave to visit your parents. Rong Fan, Hong Kong

I think this is an interesting idea. It definitely does infringe upon our idealistic view of freedom, but the trade-off seems worthwhile. It is an awful, awful thing to die alone. Marcus, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Merely visiting elderly parents once in a while won't extend much relief to their solitude. Legal compulsion to visit elderly parents won't make much difference in their lives. Moral education must be imparted. However, if the government plans such a legal compulsion, some steps like granting special leave, or reimbursing travel expenditure may help the poor workers and labourers in acting according to the law. I live away from my home town, but my mother lives with me and my family here. Roy Varghese, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India

The proposal is the least that China can do to solve this social problem which has its root in the one child policy. Yes people should be legally bound to care of their elders. What this law will probably do is to draw the younger generation's attention to the moral responsibility of showing gratitude to those who have shaped them. In my culture it's a public disgrace not to care for one's elders. I live 70 miles away from my ageing mother and I try to telephone her at least once a day. We believe that the kindnesses we show our elders today will return to us in our own old age. June-Marie Julien, Linden, Guyana

In my country, parents are forced to take care of their children until they are economically independent and, nowadays, this usually happens not before they are 30 years old. So why not to do the contrary? Our parents have been working their whole lives for us, and taking care of them when they cannot do it for themselves is our duty. Raquel, Almeria, Spain

I am instinctively uncomfortable with enforced caring, as proposed in China. However, the growing numbers of elderly people all over the world already presents a major problem for governments and society. Consideration has to be taken of the fact that one's offspring may not naturally have a good relationship with their parents and vice-versa. But children should be expected to maintain a moral responsibility for their aged parents. As for enforcing visits, I cannot envisage that being satisfactory to either party. After all, if one is emotionally close to one's parents, no enforcement will be necessary. But if one is of a "could not care less" nature, such enforced visits would be not just pointless but also downright uncomfortable for both parties. Rodney Elliott, Gourdon, France

I think it should be optional for any individual to look after their parents because any son or daughter would naturally base their decision on the way he or she grew up with the parents. Not all parents are caring towards their children so it is a give and take situation. Thomas Awah Jr Dzenyagha, Douala, Cameroon

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